Our community recently had an Extraordinary Give 24-hour giving marathon and more than doubled the income ($3 million!) and number of participants (15,000!) from the previous year. Seems like a win-win happening, no?
However, a friend of mine in the communications business and with many years of service on the local United Way Board—including allocation panels, focus groups, and other heavy UW work, objected. Perhaps he was turned off by the fact that the top-money-raising nonprofit was an animal rescue agency (limited to only one breed of dog)! (I must admit, I was rather shocked at that myself!)
His point, however, was that our community gave over $3,000,000 in 24 hours to some 250 agencies—with no regard to the value of their missions. Were the gifts given to agencies who are doing the most to help the community, addressing identified community needs, acting strategically, and running a fiscally sound operation? A good question—but not the point of the Extra Give.
Extra Give coordinates community fund-raising groups, organizes them to make a push for “extra” gifts during a designated time period, provides substantial public relations and advertising for the event, challenges participants to find creative ways to increase their visibility and “take,” puts up additional dollars that are rewarded to top-performing agencies, and brings a great deal of “extra” oomph to the idea of every citizen supporting his community. Our local event included a flash mob doing the Electric Slide, a light show on the side of a high-rise building showing progress in money raised, luncheons, chamber music concerts, parties, contests, etc.
What this kind of activity does, and does well, is market the idea of philanthropy to a great mass of the wider community: those who may not consider their $25 gift all that important; those who mean to give, but just haven’t gotten around to it; those who weren’t aware of some of the agencies at work locally; those who can be influenced to give or give more by competition, challenge, and hourly updates; and who knows what else motivates Extra Give people. This kind of activity also gives smaller nonprofits a place on the stage with larger nonprofits who frequently get the lion’s share of public attention (and gifts).
No, this isn’t the way all charitable dollars should be given (my friend’s point), but it is a great way to stimulate first gifts, higher giving levels, and awareness of community agencies! If your community isn’t doing an Extra Give, maybe you can ignite the idea! Win-Win.